Faith - a new way of seeing - Midweek Message 3rd February 2021
‘I once was blind but now I see’
I wonder how many times you and I have sung that familiar line from John Newton’s ‘Amazing Grace’. Reading through the opening chapter of James and remembering who James was has reminded me of the way in which faith opens our eyes to see everything differently. It changes the way we see everyone and everything – or at least it’s meant to. We see everything newly and more importantly, truly – or again at least we are meant to.
Think of James: he was brought up alongside Jesus of Nazareth – under the same roof – sharing the same mother, possibly the same bed. Throughout his childhood and adolescence James was reared in a household where daily he rubbed shoulders with the incarnate Son of God and yet he didn’t recognise Jesus as such. He didn’t see him for who he truly was. John confirms that when he recounts the sceptical and even cynical reaction of all Jesus’ brothers to his decision not to perform miracles more publicly before the crowds flocking into Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacle. He tells us: For even his own brothers did not believe in him (John 7:5) Yet that changed for James. When exactly his eyes were opened, we don’t know. Possibly, it was after Jesus resurrection. Paul indicates the risen Jesus made a personal appearance to him (Then he appeared to James 1 Cor 15.7) Whenever it was, James certainly looked on his half-brother with new eyes, for what else explains referring to himself at the beginning of his letter as a servant … of the Lord Jesus Christ (James 1.1) or again as our glorious Lord Jesus Christ (2.1) If you have a brother with whom you have been brought up you will understand what remarkable language that is!
That change in the way James saw Jesus, which then resulted in his trusting and bowing to him as his Saviour and his Lord, subsequently impacted the way he saw everything else and as we said earlier that is meant to be the case for every Christian believer. The evidence for that change of perspective is there in his opening exhortation to Christians to reckon trials as something to be welcomed rather than resented. That is a very different way of seeing. Or consider what he says to Christians in the churches to whom he writes who find themselves at very different ends of the social and financial spectrum: Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. (1:9-10 ESV) Whatever exactly James is saying there, we can’t help but be aware that what he is advocating is not the ‘normal’ way of seeing poverty and wealth. (We didn’t touch on that the other Sunday because James has much more to say on these subjects later in the letter) Furthermore, in relation to the trustworthy goodness of God in time of trial and temptation, and at the other end, the dangerously deadly nature of some of our desires, again we hear James’ loving pastoral concern that we see clearly – that we are not deceived (vs13-18)
So, in the light of James’ words, it’s worth asking ourselves – How is my sight? Am I seeing clearly? Am I seeing in the way James sees? Have I seen in Jesus, our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? Do I see myself as his servant? How do I see my current circumstances, especially my trials? How do I see my wealth or lack of it? Am I seeing and resting in the goodness and love of God in time of trial? Am I recognising and, with God’s help, resisting the deceitful nature of my self-centred desires?
Remember Jesus, the Son of God was sent by the Father to bring ‘recovering of sight to the blind’ (Luke 4.18) Remember that Paul the apostle was sent to preach the good news of Jesus to Gentiles in order to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God (Acts 26:18) Remember that through this gospel God….has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Jesus and his gospel is all about giving new sight, true sight. It makes good and wise sense, therefore to keep on praying in the words of the Psalm Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law (119.18) or echoing for ourselves what Paul prayed for the Ephesians: I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
It’s not that seeing is believing but rather believing (in Jesus) is the way to true seeing or as CS Lewis once said: I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun is risen, not only because I see it, but because by it, I see everything else.
Yours in Him